Cold Start: It’s Not Cheap If It’s A Choice

Cs Standard

There’s something about old brochures for really cheap cars that I find fascinating. Mostly, it has to do with how a given car’s features that are clearly and obviously severe cost-cutting measures can be described like they’re something positive, not something you got stuck with because you’re too broke for anything else, but something you chose. This old 1956 Standard 8 and 10 brochure is a great example of this.

Look above there; that’s a Family 10 model that features a luggage space that is “quite unique” in that you can’t access it from outside the car, because there is no trunk lid. Of course, this is something that you most likely have chosen, because, as the brochure tells you, it is “completely dust- and water-proof,” finally freeing you from the tyranny of damp, dusty luggage. That’s why you wouldn’t be caught dead driving a car with something as crass as a trunk that opened from the, ugh, outside, a place full of dust and water.

Cs Standard2

Of course, the brochure does grudgingly acknowledge “those who prefer to have their luggage accessible from outside the car,” a group I can only assume is populated exclusively by titled royalty used to such ostentatious decadence, but the brochure helps keep everything grounded with a  detailed description of the tin round taillights (incorporating the self-cancelling direction indicator lights, just like a Rolls-Royce) and the “neat bumper bar.”

Swanky!

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50 Responses

  1. As for the fancy schmancy gizmos on modern cars, they are expensive to just calibrate, let alone replace.

    Our ’22 Rav4 Hybrid and a deer had a time/space continuum disagreement and the front left corner of it got smashed. Not enough to set off those explody things, but front bumper, headlight, etc.

    We are awaiting the vehicle getting out of the calibration shop and then detailed. Yes, there are apparently specialty shops for recalibrating those sensor gizmos after such a relatively minor crunch.

    Fortunately all of this is covered through our insurance (less reasonable deductible), but just the recalibration is $1400. The entire repair bill is close to $9000.

  2. This is definitely a real psychological thing, though. How many people here *really* eschew modern features like ADAS because they actually dislike them, rather than because the cars that have them tend to be expensive? How many people here would buy brand new cars instead of driving weird old beaters, if money were no object?

    Some, I’m sure, but not all. For most of us, myself included, it’s actually kind of a complicated tension between choice and necessity. Like, part of the reason we like “interesting” old cars is that it makes driving an old car a choice, whereas if it was something old and *boring* it would just be because we were poor. Not all of us all of the time to be sure, but that’s part of it. We justify the cheap, old, used cars that we drive because of whatever we think makes them special—pop-up headlights, an old-school mechanical transfer case, ease of DIY maintenance, a body style that’s out of fashion nowadays, whatever.

    When manufacturers make cheap *new* cars, they can use this to their advantage. The car featured here does it in a lazy and transparent way, but take a look at something like the new Maverick, with its fun, unapologetically plastic interior full of built-in mounting points for custom accessories. That’s a legitimately great way of making something cheap feel unique and characterful! Or even the Kia Soul, with its funky styling and excellent cargo space—it’s small and easy to handle, yet it can hold everything you need! Great work there, Kia. These are cars that are inexpensive, yet genuinely have some Unique Selling Propositions that will help a potential customer rationalize why this car is a *choice* and not a *necessity*.

    Done right, the customer doesn’t have to feel like they’re getting something second-rate because they can point to something good about their cheap car that other, more expensive cars don’t have. It makes people actually feel good about buying at the bottom of the market.

    I will happily admit that I am susceptible to this line of thinking myself—when I’m driving my Miata and see more expensive sports cars, some little part of me thinks, “Yeah, but they don’t have popup headlights/a convertible roof/a usable trunk/a manual transmission/whatever.” If I’d had more money, might I not be driving an S2000, or an F-type Jag, or a 911? Maybe. I don’t think about it that much though, because I love my little car, I love its character and spirit, and it’s *mine*. I have no trouble believing that it’s the right car for me, and if and when I come into more money I will probably just put it into making the Miata better rather than replacing it with something fancier.

    Anyway, I’m not sure if I really had a point there. It’s an interesting psychological phenomenon though, and if manufacturers serve it up right then even absolute anti-marketing curmudgeons like myself will eat it right up and ask for seconds.

    1. I turn the lane keep assist off in my Outback ONLY because its really intrusive, loud and annoying – so loud in fact that it would wake my kids up when they were babies – things you don’t want when driving, screaming babies. But I leave everything else on. I keep the lane keep on in my wifes car, because it gently reminds you by vibrating the wheel that you have crossed the line, its fine. I like adaptive cruise, pre-collision and autonomous braking. I’ll always buy new when I can afford it, especially for cars that are transporting my family, daily drivers etc, they don’t need to be that much fun. BUT for a fun car, I don’t really care if it has the bits and bobs or not, so long as the driving experience is good.

    2. This hits deep. I love all kinds of old shit. I typically buy an item used with something broken, fix it, love it, fix it again, and love it more. Ad infinitum. My own NA Miata is the largest, most expensive testament to that ethos.

      But it’s probably not a coincidence that I got this mentality right as I was starting to save money for a big life/career move. And every time someone ribs me for what essentially looks like a habit of collecting beat-up things, it stings just a little. Not because the commentary is wrong, or malicious, but because it lays bare the financial underpinnings of my decisions.

      Torch often laments the loss of “cheap and cheerful” as a design and marketing philosophy, and I agree with him. But I think you’ve gotten to the crux of why it has disappeared. We know we’re buying decontented items because we can’t afford anything nicer. We just don’t need the world reminding us of that.

    3. You make a fine point for a Monday, and I’d add that maybe some of it even relates to our perceptions of the automaker.

      We have no trouble believing GM is mostly producing committee-designed vehicles homologated to a focus group. Like those horrendous ads from the last decade that actually strongly implied this and even that the focus group was actually stupider than we imagined.

      But we imagine Mazda as being run by a bunch of ex endurance racers, or recall that Ford sells quite successfully in Europe. So maybe it’s easier to talk ourselves into their lower-content models.

    4. “How many people here *really* eschew modern features like ADAS because they actually dislike them, rather than because the cars that have them tend to be expensive?”

      I can say first-hand that we disabled some of the ADAS features on my wife’s Mazda CX-5 (e.g., lane-keeping assist) because they were intrusive and disconcerting.

      But overall, I agree with your general sentiment that there are some cases where we may dislike certain features more as a air of “I don’t have a car with it, so it is useless.” My previous car did not have heated seats, and living in Texas, I thought it was a useless addition of cost and weight. My current car has them and I would miss it the feature if it isn’t in my next car (although, the way this year is going, there may not be many opportunities to use them).

      1. “But overall, I agree with your general sentiment that there are some cases where we may dislike certain features more as a air of “I don’t have a car with it, so it is useless.””

        Even worse than this is “We survived without [feature X] for decades and turned out fine”, as if that is virtuous. It’s OK for things to get better over time! I wouldn’t trade the cars we have now for any other period of history.

        1. I think a very large unspoken part of “we didn’t have [X feature] during [Y era] and we turned out fine” is nostalgia for that period of the speaker’s life, rather than the cars themselves

        2. When it comes to things like lane assist: yeah. We DID.

          I am still far from convinced that we have mastered this technology to the point that it does not generate arguments between car and driver. Nobody wins those.

    5. “How many people here *really* eschew modern features like ADAS because they actually dislike them…?”

      I’m still at the point of eschewing automatic chokes for carburetors because I actually dislike them, so ADAS isn’t even in the picture.

    6. “This is definitely a real psychological thing, though. How many people here *really* eschew modern features like ADAS because they actually dislike them, rather than because the cars that have them tend to be expensive?”

      I rule out ADAS because it’s expensive to fix. I have no fucking interest or desire in replacing a daily driver every 3-4 years. Which means it’s going to break. I absolutely goddamn hate lane-keeping and lane-departure warning systems, but I can turn the obnoxious things off. (Motherfucker, I am merging. I HAVE to depart the goddamn lane.) It’s also buggy as fuck.
      Software. Is. Hard. Car software is even harder. And they get it wrong more than they get it right. And once it’s shipped? Fuck you. It’s shipped.

      And in a collision? I like being able to see at night. Headlight laws in the US are a total joke and make us far less safe. They also make the new LED shit both ineffective and horrifyingly expensive. My Porsche has PDLS with Xenon. Each headlight assembly is $2k.
      That’s less than a Volvo S60 ‘Hammer of Thor’ headlight. $2600 for blingy LEDs that thanks to the NHTSA are ineffective as hell. Oh wait, the control unit’s not included, that’s another $400. You also have to replace the headlight leveling sensors, $135 each. And then you have to reprogram them and it can only be done at the dealer. So that’s $3635. Per headlight.
      And of course, all your ADAS shit is up front too. $150 for your bumper harness, $400 in accelerometers, $300 in foglights, $300 in park assist sensors, $400 front camera, and the list goes on.

      Over $8k before you do paint. For a collision that deployed no airbags, caused no structural damage, just crushed the front bumper foam and cracked the headlights.

      That’s not sustainable.

    7. I DO.

      I KNOW what I want on a current vehicle. (Current to mean new.):
      I dont want safety driver bs.
      I want a paint color (not shit black, rental white or primer).
      I dont want a 5g innanet service.
      I dont want electric steering / brakes or drive by wire. I want Hydraulic steering and brakes!

      My wifes EGG.. is a perfect example of what I dont want.
      No auto headlights
      No screen of any kind
      No sat bs.
      No spying, tracking of any sort.
      I dont want a subscription service to my car.
      I want my car.. to do as I tell it.
      If I want to speed.. than I will do so.
      If I want to go into 3rd.. I will move the Clutch currectly.

      EVEN If I had half of the DOUGH in the world… I wouldnt buy a new car. Why? —– What do you get in a new car.. that you dont have now?

      Question is… why would someone want a new vehicle.
      Answer… Cause they dont give a damn. They just want a new car.

    8. “How many people here *really* eschew modern features like ADAS because they actually dislike them…?”
      (Raises hand) Me. I have tested ADAS in a variety of loaners and rentals and have yet to find a system that I don’t hunt down “how to disable” instructions for. Blind spot alerts and backup cross traffic are ok, they can charge me extra to delete the rest.

    9. And even if I had all the damn cash in the world to go down and find some new car… I still couldnt replace what I already have. It cant get better. It only gets worse.

      Shit, I dont want.
      Shit, I dont need.
      Shit, I cant stand.
      Shit, that can go fuck itself
      Shit, I hate
      Shit, that does what the fuck it wants….

      Is all shit… I dont need.

      1. A sad number of new car “innovations” of the last 20 years can all be filed under “technology solutions in search of a problem.”

        And that’s before we even get into ridiculous things like piped in engine noise. Who wants that? Who needs that? Who the hell even asked for that? If it’s you, kindly punch yourself in the face for me.

      2. All the reviews knock Toyota’s for having small screens with not great UI. Or old technology blah blah. I see the new Ranger, or the new Outback with a screen in the centre that is larger than the laptop I took to University 15 years ago and I think there is nothing wrong with what Toyota is doing. I’m with you pal

        1. In the last 2+yrs:
          Ive trained myself not to look into my device for the “clock”
          I got into an accident with a 10′ pole. Had I drove a EGG, Ida been dead. The fact that I drove a SQUARE BLUE HONDA.. meant that the pole went into my RAD. (THX AERODYNAMICS.)
          Its abundantly clear… the things I do, how I drive, what I dont do and what every one else does. (I sat next to a Laptop on 4 wheels from OL Musky from SANDUSKY as an owner used their device.. IN FRONT OF THE LARGE LAPTOP IMBEDDED IN THE DEVICE ON 4 WHEELS. — Who is vain enough to use their device.. in front of the one in their laptop on 4 wheels.)

          Ive also noticed.. my car is slower than Mollasses in Winter. If I am the fastest off the line.. it means everyone else is having their head down.

          P.S
          Even the Rentals I had as my car was in the shop… were poor. Ive driven / owned nothing but Hondas.. and the most recent spade.. is poor.

          It makes me mad as a person.
          It made me sad and feel pathetic as a human being.
          It reduces my abilities as a DRIVER in a new car from someone who is capable down to a wet sock.

          And even though I had 2 rentals.. one was a HRV, other was a base Silverado 4dr, I still hate the Honda. I just hate the Silverado more, even with the meaty burnout I did (and the ruined driveshaft I picked it up with — have pictures.)

          In short…
          New cars SUCK more cock than a new Hooker!

    1. Back then it was not uncommon for “wing mirrors” to be added by the dealer rather than at the factory, especially for British cars. That’s why you’ll find cars of the same make/model/year with a wide variety of mirrors and mirror placements. Some on the fenders, some on the doors.

      1. For that matter, for these and any other import cars in America the headlights were often dealer-installed because of the sealed beam requirement. US-bound models would ship from the factory with tar paper over the headlight sockets, usually held in place by the trim rings, and the dealer would install whatever they got a bulk deal on before putting them out on the lot to sell.

      2. SO…
        YOU are trying to tell me, that Sonny Crockett’s JET BLACK Ferrari 365 GTB-4 i.e Daytona badged C4 Vette had the mirrors placed.. not by some stuck-up Italian Line dude…

        But by some Sol Hobromowitzensteinberg IMPORTER dude?@!

        Are you trying to tell me.. the same thing goes for his STRAIGHT from the Nose-Candy White Factory Testarossa?

        OH GOD DAMN!

      1. I have probably 10 buttons in the entire interior of my car: radio, window switches and I can operate them BLINDFOLDED. Not even touch capacitive. Its this “weird” engineering concept… where you know / identify the button by its set group and its purpose.

        A Speedo, eh thats buillshit. All ya really need is a TACH to figure out what rpms the motor is spinning at (then again, ya could just roll down the window and listen to the motor). Then again, I like to know what temperature the motor is at. Same goes for coolant, battery.. ya know basic stuff.

  3. My wife used a Standard 8 as her daily driver in mid 90’s, great little classic, cheap to run, proper grease nipples, leaned like a 2CV in corners, crash box on 1st and 2nd. We had a run on classics as DD’s, Ford Anglias, Ford Corsair, Beetles etc

  4. Family 10 Design Conference Meeting went something like this:

    Edward (Chief engineer): “My team can design exterior access to the boot. No problem”
    Alfred (Chief accountant): “Yeah, but that pair of boot lifts and hinges cost us 2 quid a pop last time”
    Earnest (Boss): “That settles it. No rear access. William you’ve got some work to do to sell this baby”

    William (Chief Advertising Executive): “Blood ‘ell. I guess I’ll tell ’em to go with “completely dust- and water-proof” again (as he makes Air-quotes with hands)

    Lots of raucous laughter ensues.

    Boss: “Good meeting boys, lets open the good Sherry this time”

  5. The Bugeye Sprite has a lidless trunk. I had the “fun” and “pleasure” (so said my boss) of sandblasting the inside of one of those. It was a summer job at a restoration shop. I got to do some cool stuff (pull the engine on a Mini, hang the rear suspension on a XK140), but also did some real shit jobs.

    1. The trunk on on my Bugeye was larger than I expected, but it was a real pain to put anything into it and it seemed to be a little more difficult to get something out of it. Sandblasting the inside of a Bugeye trunk would have been a real test of flexibility, among other things.

  6. Anyone else remember when Ford used the fairly unfortunate “G” and “GL” designations for the value/basic versions of their vehicles?

    Ford’s since gone to “S” which sounds so much more sexy, and the average person to whom you’re talking might not even figure out you have the base model. But “I have a Taurus GL” wouldn’t fool anyone, ever.

    1. Honda Civic DX.

      My favorite though in terms of trying to pretend that a given trim level isn’t the base (or that a car isn’t a watered-down version of a more expensive model in the lineup) is “Sport.” What the hell is sporty about a base-model Wrangler or a squared-off Escape? Who buys a Range Rover Sport for any reason other than that they couldn’t afford the full-beef Range Rover?

      It’s been going on for long enough that I feel like there must be some kind of history there. I’d love to know how that got started, because it makes no sense at all.

      1. I have a theory on that. During the prewar, coachbuilt years, most European sporting cars were based on regular production sedan platforms, often shortened but not always, and usually stripped of most fripperies that weren’t strictly needed to go faster on a racetrack or open road than the saloon counterpart. So cars were often open, with a bare bones roof and possibly sidescreens to satisfy endurance racing regulations, two seats, spindly cycle wings, easily removable windscreens and lighting, and not much else. This was the recipe for everyone from Bentley to Austin. And if you think of it, for the most part, even most postwar sports cars were stripped down compared to the family cars their manufacturers made – the exception to this, to me, is the Chevrolet Corvette, which was always far better appointed than most European sports cars, with the possible exception of Jaguar or Aston Martin.

        So I think that a lot of manufacturers still think of “sports cars” as being stripped out for fun, and therefore call the base models the “Sport”. I’d buy it if they offered fun stuff on the Sport, like cool colors or something, but it defeats the purpose of being cheap. (case in point was the last couple of years of NC Miata, which had three trim levels, sport, club, and GT, and the sportiest one is the Club! All the sports equipment without the weight of leather and electronic gubbins)

    1. No. “Screen washers” are the squirty things that spray blue juice on your “windscreen” so the *screen wipers* can clean it. Washers weren’t at all standard equipment; wipers were.

  7. The early ’50s was kind of the last great flowering of this layout – I call it a passback, because you have to pass your cargo back to the trunk – the Saab 92 and the Henry J also came out with passbacks and later gained a trunk lid option. And that’s not even counting the VW, Fiat 600 and any other rear-engine models with a passback and a frunk.

    Those were also 2-door fastbacks. It seems Standard was alone in doing this postwar with full 3-box notchback styling, which could only be done on a 4-door car seen here. The notch made folding the seat mandatory – no access from above while kneeling on the back seat – but at least made for more direct one-person access to the trunk.
    But it does leave the question, why didn’t Standard do what everyone else was doing and offer 2 or 4 doors, both with external trunk lids? Once you’ve factored for the folding rear seat and external spare-tire access, the cost to build couldn’t have been much of a difference.

    1. It might’ve just intuitively seemed cheaper to whoever was the relevant shot-caller, even if building two different rears ended up not saving any money in reality. We forget sometimes that just a generation ago (and this car is from at least two generations back) people didn’t have access to anything remotely like the kind of data analysis we take for granted today. A lot of decisions were made on gut instinct back then whereas today it would be practically corporate malfeasance not to “run the numbers” first.

      1. Sometimes not even anything as helpful as gut instinct. Look up the design history of cars like the Austin Allegro or Morris Marina and there were absolutely pivotal product planning decisions driven purely by office rivalry between BMC/BL brands, ones that would not have passed *any* common-sense assessment let alone modern data analysis.

  8. This “selling something shitty as a genuine feature” bit reminds me of the H.R. company policy guide at a previous employer. It which went something like this:

    “Because work-life balance is important, this position does not come with any vacation days.”

    “Your health is important, so anything beyond the legal minimum number of sick days is a complete nonstarter.”

    “Because we care about your financial future, we will be contributing fuck-all to your 401(k).”

    1. My most recent employer had me scared that I was going to be fired.. from about the 32nd day I was hired.

      Place was run like shit and the rules changed often.

      Employer before that.. I used to crap 3x a day without eating ANYTHING. If my job performance was unsatisfactory to my boss’.. it would drive me to shit. (Then again, that was a commission position.)

    1. I think the difference lies with the superlative nature of the lidless design being “completely dust and water proof” whereas the traditional boot lid is simply “water and dust proof”. Even more interesting to me is that the economy model got a spare tire cover panel for access (ala TR2 or TR3) since unlike a Bugeye Sprite the spare is in its own space, and not thrown in the back and strapped down.

  9. Is the the only time the word “orifice” was used in a car ad originally written on English, as opposed to Chinese auto-translated to English?

    List of features reminds me of the sales pitch for the Carnivale TV – premolded hand grips, two-prong wall plug, durable outer casing to prevent fall-apart

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